Slaughter loses bid as he prepares for trial

Ralph Slaughter
Ralph Slaughter

At his September trial over whether he should receive $17,000 or $24,000 a month in retirement benefits, the former president of Southern University won’t be allowed to mention the formula used to calculate state judges’ retirement benefits, a judge ruled Monday.

Supplemental pay judges receive is included when their retirement benefits are calculated. However state District Judge Mike Caldwell ruled that fact should be irrelevant to former Southern University System President Ralph Slaughter and his bid to include supplemental pay he received from a private group in his retirement calculation.

Louisiana State Employees Retirement System attorney Tina Grant told Caldwell that analyzing LASERS’ Judges Supplemental Compensation Fund with the retirement plan for rank-and-file state workers is like comparing apples to oranges.

“(Slaughter) is not a member of the judges’ plan,” she said.

Slaughter attorney Jill Craft essentially countered with a “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” argument, saying the $200,000-a-year salary supplement that Slaughter received from the Southern University System Foundation should be treated no differently than the judges’ salary supplement.

“A number of other people receive supplemental compensation on which retirement benefits are calculated,” she said, pointing to administrators at LSU and Southern.

Slaughter’s case is set for trial Sept. 12. Caldwell, who will act as the judge and jury, granted LASERS’ request to exclude Slaughter from referencing the Judges Supplemental Compensation Fund at the trial. LASERS claimed any mention of the fund would be immaterial and a waste of the court’s time.

Slaughter contends his total $468,000 pay package from Southern, which included a $200,000 salary supplement paid to the state on behalf of Southern by the private SU System Foundation, should be used in calculating his monthly retirement benefits. His attorneys have said taxes are deducted from the $468,000.

LASERS maintains the $200,000 supplement should be excluded from the retirement calculation.

For about a year now, Craft said after court, LASERS has been reducing by more than $7,000 the $24,000-plus in monthly retirement benefits that Slaughter receives. Caldwell has said previously he could order LASERS to return the money to Slaughter if Slaughter is successful at trial.

Grant said it was Southern who first reported to LASERS that the university had made an error in reporting Slaughter’s compensation. She said it is LASERS’ responsibility to correct any error.

Slaughter has been a member of LASERS since 1974 when he went to work for the state Department of Revenue. He also worked for the state Legislative Auditor’s Office.

Slaughter has been contesting the retirement benefit issue since 2009 when his contract expired and the Southern Board of Supervisors refused to keep him as president.

Slaughter, who alleges he was wrongfully terminated, has remained in litigation with Southern ever since he lost his job.

In January 2012, the Louisiana Supreme Court affirmed state District Judge Tim Kelley’s December 2009 ruling that based Slaughter’s accrued vacation and sick leave time on his $220,000 base salary — not on his total pay package that included the salary supplement.

Kelley ruled earlier this year that Slaughter intended to defraud the SU System Foundation by transferring much of his estate to his wife last year while the private group was seeking to recover nearly half a million dollars from him.

The ruling allows the foundation to attempt to seize the Slaughters’ home, automobiles and other property in order to collect $475,000 — plus running legal interest — that the judge ordered Slaughter to pay the foundation last summer.

The foundation claimed in a suit against Slaughter that he received $400,000 in salary supplements without foundation board approval, although Southern’s board authorized the payments. The foundation’s board never approved the salary supplement payments, foundation attorneys argue, and the foundation was not a party to Slaughter’s employment contract.